It’s time to legalise all drugs - Paul Stainton

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

It seems every week in Peterborough and the surrounding area somebody is discovered to be growing things that they shouldn’t be.

They are often given away by their extravagant electricity bills or the pungent aroma which escapes from their well-ventilated lofts.

Behind the façade of innocuous looking houses, in respectable areas, from Fellowes Road in Fletton to Norwood Lane in Paston, Oakroyd Crescent in Wisbech to Langley in Bretton, (to name but four) people are growing bucket loads of marijuana.

Of course, it’s illegal, but should it be?

The question of whether the use of drugs should be legalised has even grabbed the attention of Prince William, who recently called it the biggest question that society faces today.

In Durham, cannabis users have effectively been given a free pass to grow the drug for their own consumption after officers said they would pursue only “blatant” offenders, and forces across the country appear to be taking a lighter approach, probably due to the fact that they don’t have the resources to police it anyway.

The Liberal Democrats’ most recent General Election manifesto called for the legalisation of cannabis so that it could be sold in a regulated market, but if it were up to me I would go a step further and legalise all drugs.

I have to say at this point that despite being around the acid house scene in the late 80s and seeing people take enough drugs to down an elephant, I have never partaken.

But criminalising drug use makes no sense – it’s like the prohibition of alcohol in America in the 1920s. It didn’t work, it just handed control of the industry to criminals, and that is exactly where we are with drugs.

Like alcohol and cigarettes, people are always going to want drugs, so let’s begin with that premise and work backwards.

Imagine a world where the government, doctors and specialists are in control, where it is all out in the open, where people would be able to access drugs freely and get help at the same time.

Nobody would need to rob and steal to feed their habit because the price would be regulated, which in turn would force criminals out of business, bring down the crime rate and help with the homeless problem in this country, much of which is linked to drug use.

Taxes would be raised and the extra income spent on rehabilitation and awareness, whilst Cambridgeshire police could concentrate on other more important things like cycling down Bridge Street.

Last year, a report from the Royal Society for Public Health suggested that the “war on drugs” had failed. It argued criminalising drugs led to greater long-term harm, by causing users to be excluded from employment and education, as well as exposing them to more drugs in prison.

We cannot keep doing the same old things just because we are afraid of change. Wasn’t it Einstein who said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

The government says that there is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that controlled drugs are harmful and can damage people’s mental and physical health, but so does alcohol and cigarettes, but they are legal and there is virtually no black market in those substances. What the government fails to say is, that the present approach isn’t working and that sending people to prison where they can access even more illegal drugs is nonsensical. We don’t need to be Einstein to work this out, as a society we just need to stop burying our heads in the sand and take back control.

If we alter our thinking we can change people’s lives for the better in Peterborough.

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